Ah, the dubious honor of being the on-call photog. In addition to the daily workload, that person also gets the oh-dark-thirty wake-up call for whatever calamity just happened.
I'm staring down the barrel of my second on-call stretch in three weeks. Why so soon? Thanks to my little vacation in Denver last month, and the photog shortage, my week from last month got switched. That was two weeks ago. This is my regular week.
It's been five years since I took up the lens, and when I started I looked forward to each week of call. Not only did it mean overtime, desperately needed to keep a roof over my head and ramen in my belly, but I was a night-owl anyway. Few people know the serenity of cruising the streets at 2 a.m., when the signals only flash yellow or red, and the lanes are devoid of traffic. Everything was a new experience, just waiting for me to get there. How could I ever tire of that?
Now I'm hitting the five year mark, and the wall that I've heard other photogs talk about. It could have something to do with being married, which means that I'm not the only one roused from sleep's sweet embrace when the phone rings. Like the other photogs in my shop, I look at call as a necessary annoyance that comes with the job. The good news is that our morning producer has been in my shoes, so when he calls it's usually worth the trouble of tying them.
It's the weekend that receives the most loathing from our ranks. From the end of the late newscast to nine a.m., the newsroom is deserted. This is usually when I see the most activity, since no one is at the station to check the validity of the call. Car accident in Plaquemine? Guess I'll have to drive the hour to get there. If I don't and Brand X does, the reaming will be worse than the lost sleep.
That's what gets me out of bed now. I can't just roll over and go back to sleep. The fear keeps me awake. Will this be the one time that costs me my job? Once I'm in the car the anticipation of what lies ahead usually supplants those thoughts. It's a shame, really.
Let's not forget about the people who are affected by these calls. One is a mother who just lost a child, either to a murder or a car accident. There are others who have lost a home to a fire, and if they're lucky, that's all they've lost. These people are the real reason I don't look forward to taking call. In the end their story is why I'm out there, so I treat them with the respect I would expect were our roles reversed.
Hopefully the pager stays silent this week.